Oregon Soldier receives his life-saving helmet from PEO Soldier

Four years to the day Ryan Craig first emerged from a coma after being struck in the head by an enemy sniper bullet, a Program Executive Office Soldier official reunited him with the helmet that saved his life.

The Afghan war veteran received his Advanced Combat Helmet from Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Doug Maddi, PEO Soldier senior enlisted representative and a fellow Afghan veteran, in a short ceremony here in Craig’s hometown.

PEO Soldier is the Army organization that develops the uniforms, parachutes, body armor, helmets, small arms and other equipment Soldiers use.

hold

Program Executive Office Soldier reunited Sgt. Ryan Craig, third from left, with his life-saving Army Combat Helmet Dec. 18 at a ceremony at Prineville, Ore. Also in photo are Katie Christensen, Jennifer Miller, Craig, Clyde Peacock, Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Doug Maddi, Barry Hauck, and a Craig family friend.

More than 150 people, most of whom are members of the Band of Brothers, attended the ceremony held in the Prineville Elks Lodge. The helmet, mounted in a special display case, still carries the scars of the bullet that struck the former Army sergeant Nov. 19, 2010, in a heavy firefight near Kabul, Afghanistan.

When his platoon came under sudden heavy enemy fire, Craig took a position to return fire and shield his unit as it escaped to safety. A shot from an enemy sniper hit Craig directly in the front of the ACH. Fortunately, the helmet prevented the round from penetrating.

“I remembered being on a roof in Afghanistan and then waking up in Maryland,” Craig said.

For Maddi, the protective return ceremony was particularly personal.

“I was Ryan Craig’s command sergeant major on that day,” Maddi told the gathering. “Ryan was severely wounded. From my combat experience at the time, frankly, I didn’t think he was going to make it off the battlefield, but he did.”

“Ryan placed himself in danger to save the lives of his fellow Soldiers,” Maddi said. “That’s what being a Soldier is about.

“Ryan will always be my Soldier,” Maddi said before presenting the helmet to Craig. “I am proud to have served with him. I am proud to serve the organization that developed the protective equipment that saved his life.

“And most of all, I’m proud today to once again be by his side along with his family and the Band of Brothers,” Maddi said. “Thank you for your great support of Sergeant Craig, his family, and other Wounded Warriors.” Band of Brothers is a nationwide motorcycle club founded with the goal of supporting America’s warriors.

“I am very proud to be able to return this helmet to you,” said Maddi to Craig.

Maddi said there was more than simply the ACH stopping a bullet that saved Craig’s life.

“His survival was a testament to his refusal to give up,” Maddi said. “He also lived because of top-notch Army equipment such as his helmet, and because his Army teammates and medics on the ground quickly evacuated him and gave him first aid.

“Then he benefitted from the care of Army doctors at the treatment facility, and from the subsequent treatment he received in Germany and stateside,” Maddi said. “But medical treatment is only part of it. Ryan’s friends and family have been instrumental in bringing him through to be with us today.”

“I’d like to personally thank his mom, Jennifer Miller, who has survived a lot right along with Ryan,” Maddi said. Miller flew to Germany to be with Craig while he underwent surgery. She said the helmet made her feel grateful and gave her hope.

“She has been at his side through every step of the way, including years of treatment, medical rehabilitation and working with the Army and the Veterans Administration,” Maddi said.

“I also want to take a moment to salute the Band of Brothers,” Maddi said. “The busy Christmas season is upon us, yet they still took time out to help with this event. You have been a strong support to Sergeant Craig and his family.”

Sgt. Ryan Craig, left, shares stories with Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Doug Maddi, right, following a ceremony where the Program Executive Office Soldier senior NCO reunited Craig with the Army Combat Helmet that saved his life.

Sgt. Ryan Craig, left, shares stories with Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Doug Maddi, right, following a ceremony where the Program Executive Office Soldier senior NCO reunited Craig with the Army Combat Helmet that saved his life.

In addition to his mother, Craig’s sister Katie Christensen also attended the ceremony. Barry Hauck, deputy product manager of Soldier Protective Equipment which is responsible for the ACH, accompanied Maddi to the return.

Craig expressed his appreciation for the helmet return ceremony and said he is working hard to continue the process of healing. He recently resumed driving a car and is enrolling in Central Oregon Community College in Bend.

“This is a great Soldier,” Maddi said. “He never will give up.”

About Debra Dawson